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Winterhawks take 3-2 series lead over Cougars

For the first time in the 2017 post season the Prince George Cougars are facing elimination.

Saturday night in front of a sold out crowd at CN Centre the Portland Winterhawks earned a 5-3 victory giving them a 3-2 series lead. Winterhawks rookie Ryan Hughes snapped a 3-3 tie with 5:38 remaining in the third. 59 seconds earlier Colby McAuley had tied the score for Prince George after they had trailed at one point 3-1. Cole Kehler was superb for Portland turning aside 48 of the 51 shots the Cougars fired his way in goal. The final shots were 51-28 favouring the Cougars who have now dropped two straight games in the series.

Just a minute and nine seconds into the first the frenzied crowd had something to cheer about when Jared Bethune deflected a Shane Collins point shot past Kehler and in for his second goal of the series. But rookie Brad Ginnell quickly answered though for Portland when he snapped his first of the playoffs past Ty Edmonds at the 4:26 mark.

Joachim Blichfeld then moved Portland ahead 2-1 when he converted on the first power play opportunity of the game for his team. Blichfeld’s first of the series was set up nicely by Cody Glass who found him wide open in front of the Cougars net for a one-timer. Portland’s power play finished the night one-for-two while the Cougars ended up going zero-for-two. The shots were 18-10 Prince George after one period but the score was 2-1 for the visitors.

The game remained 2-1 for Portland through 40 minutes. Cole Kehler continued his stellar play in net for Portland as he denied all 15 Cougar opportunities in the middle frame. Ty Edmonds went 10-for-10 between the pipes for the Cougars which set the stage for a wild and crazy third period.

Less than two minutes into the third Cole Kehler made a dazzling stop off of Jared Bethune who’s backhand came up short from in close. Less than a minute later the Winterhawks made it a 3-1 game when Matt Revel and Joachim Blichfeld teamed up for Blichfeld’s second of the night. 2:45 into the third period the Cats trailed 3-1.

Brogan O’Brien moved the Cougars back within striking distance when he beat Cole Kehler for his second of the series off a terrific individual effort to keep the puck onside, deke out a pair of defenders before wiring a shot past Kehler’s stick.

Colby McAuley then blew the roof off of the CN Centre when he tied the game at 13:23 off a shot that slid just underneath the crossbar over top of Kehler’s right shoulder. The game was tied 3-3 and the Cougars had regained momentum.

Fifty-nine seconds later though the Winterhawks stole it right back when Ryan Hughes converted off an Evan Weinger pass on a two-on-one rush to make the score 4-3. For rookie Ryan Hughes it was his first goal of the series.

Cody Glass then iced the game for Portland with an unassisted marker at 17:25. Glass’ second of the playoffs came off a puck that bounced off of the referee’s skate and to him along the right wing goal line. Glass’ low shot found it’s way past the skate of Ty Edmonds though to make it a 5-3 score that they would not relinquish.

Game 6 is now slated for Monday night at 7 p.m. at the Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum in Portland. A win for the Cougars would force a seventh and deciding game back in Prince George on Wednesday night at CN Centre.

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